Nearly a year ago, the Department of Justice was called in to investigate allegations of abuse and civil rights violations at the hands of the Seattle Police Department, and today the DOJ released its report:
• Seattle police officers too quickly resort to the use of impact weapons, such as batons and flashlights. When SPD officers use batons, 57 percent of the time it is either unnecessary or excessive, the investigation found.
• Seattle officers escalate situations and use unnecessary or excessive force when arresting individuals for minor offenses. This trend is pronounced in encounters with persons with mental illnesses or those under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “This is problematic because SPD estimates that 70 percent of use-of-force encounters involve these populations,” the report said.
• Multiple officers at a time use unnecessary or excessive force together against a single subject. Of the excessive use of force incidents identified by the Justice Department, 61 percent of the cases involved more than one officer.
• In any given year, a minority of officers account for a disproportionate number of use of force incidents. Over the more than two-year period reviewed, 11 officers used force 15 or more times, and 31 officers used force 10 or more times.
• In 2010, just 20 officers accounted for 18 percent of all use-of-force incidents. Yet, SPD has no effective supervisory techniques to better analyze why these officers use force more than other officers, whether their uses of force are necessary, or whether any of these officers would benefit from additional use of force training.
Since I’ve been writing about these issues all year, I will exercise current restraint so as not to take a cheap opportunity to pile on the department.
I will, however, take this opportunity to repeat what I feel is a large part of the solution to these problems.
The Seattle Police Department is not a local police department, rather, it is a heavily-militarized occupation force. Nearly 80% of SPD officers live somewhere other than Seattle, and this “occupation mentality” is one of the primary reasons that police are so hostile toward our people. They are not one of us. They are not our friends, they are not our family, they are not our neighbors. They have no skin in the livability of our town. They do not feel that Seattle is an attractive place to live and raise a family. We are simply subjects standing between the police officers and their paychecks.
As the DOJ report clearly shows, we are treated accordingly.
In addition, I think our current police chief has overstayed his welcome. These problems have flourished under his watch, and I do not believe that he can salvage the confidence of the people at this point in the game.
For the time being, I will leave my comments there.
Here’s hoping that this report will finally bring much-needed, long-overdue changes to our struggling police department.
Update: Ugh. No sooner did the ink on the DOJ report dry before this new video surfaced.
Remember, few of those officers live in the “big city”, and you don’t have to be very tough to walk the streets of First Hill with a gun. And a taser. And pepper spray. And a baton. And an armed backup.